so deer season for hunters using modern firearms opens this week
and not everyone is thrilled. People who have hit or nearly hit
deer on area highways may be happy to know that the overpopulated
deer herd will be thinned a bit over the next few days.
hunting sells licenses and equipment and wildlife managers and sporting-goods
manufacturers have to be happy. Lovers of Bambi, however, who don't
realize that ‹ without restocking mountain lions and wolves along
with deer, our wildlife managers have created a situation where
only automobiles, the starvation sure to follow the previous summer's
drought and hunters are likely to control the deer population ‹
may be distressed by the situation.
neutral. I wish the predators were still out there hunting the deer
and that the human population were still at frontier levels so that
people would be hunting strictly for subsistence.
am I excited about duck season coming later this month but not about
deer season? The main reason is that I grew up before deer were
restocked. I first saw a wild deer in Louisiana when I was in high
school. I had become an enthusiastic hunter of ducks, quail and
squirrels by that time. Deer were exotic beasts to be admired.
same was true of wild turkeys. They were restocked during the time
I was growing up and have taken longer to become well-established.
Cousins my age don't hunt deer. Cousins 10 years younger grew up
hunting deer. I missed that addiction by a decade.
frustrating thing is that part of the maximization of the deer population
has involved the destruction of habitat for birds, squirrels and
other species. Wildlife-management areas all over the state routinely
suffer the removal of fine stands of ancient hardwood timber to
make room for "food plots," a polite term for places to get deer
to congregate and supplement their natural food with prairie grass
and such ‹ and sometimes to be ambushed by a hunter who doesn't
mind hunting in an ugly, logged-over area as long as he gets a shot
at a buck. Anyway, my mind has been on duck dogs.
can I relate that to deer hunting? An anecdote from last January
may help. Having come out of one of Southeast Arkansas' fine stands
of hardwood timber on Wayne Hampton's property near Lodge's Corner,
flooded temporarily during winter for duck habitat, I was about
to put Bounty Grant's Aubunique Egg into his crate in the back of
my truck when I realized the two dogs in a crate beside his, Aubunique
Sadie Hawkins and Pal Joey, hadn't been out since noon and needed
some exercise. So I let them out.
only did the two young Labrador retrievers run straight across the
road and begin chasing a large herd of deer that had been feeding
peacefully about a half-mile away on the other side of a field of
winter wheat but also Egg, 8 years old and wet and cold from a retrieving
mallards from the icy swamp, joined the chase.
three dogs Œhunted' the deer for a couple of hours, finally returning
to the dirt farm road wet but happy long after I had come to believe
I would have to wade through the swamp all night to find them and
might not survive to enjoy dinner or even the next day's breakfast.
No, they didn't bark; so Labs are not a good substitute for hounds
as deer dogs. However, they would be excellent for tracking wounded
deer, anywhere the law allows the use of dogs that way.
the past seven weeks, my life has been dominated by eight beautiful
puppies born of a union of Egg and Sadie. The parents agree it is
time for their offspring to be adopted.
in fact, has let me know in ways only a dog and master who have
spent long hours together can, that he wants Sadie to work on getting
back in shape from nursing quickly and take over the late-season
duck-retrieving chores, when ice is likely to cover the water and
the wind-chill factor likely will dip below zero. In fact, while
curled up a lot closer to the living-room stove than he would have
in past years, he may be dreaming of the time when Aubunique Hot
Chocolate Egg, his third-born pup and namesake, can take over some
of the chores that he has had to do over the years.
sure spends a lot of time hanging around his sire, maybe listening
to old hunting stories. I can only hope he is learning how to behave
as well as his dad has over the years. Anyway, I won't be competing
for shots at bucks this weekend. I'll likely see the final good
weekend of fall color only from my backyard in Fayetteville. But,
if I manage to find responsible homes for some of their pups, Egg
and Sadie are likely to forgive me for not taking them where they
can chase a deer or otherwise do what Labs do when they get loose
in the big woods.